Feng Na walked out of the academic building in a trance-like state. Her emotions were all over the place: shock; disbelief; awe; elation; relief; gratitude;
A tug on her arm made her stop. "Nana. Let's go sit down over there."
Feng Na turned and saw Cheng Cheng pointing at a bench near the academic building. She nodded half-heartedly and let Cheng Cheng pull her to the bench.
"Holy shit..." Cheng Cheng said after they'd both sat down. "I never thought I'd see the country's Director General of Education in person…"
Feng Na shook her head. "Don't you find it odd?"
Cheng Cheng shot her a questioning look.
Feng Na gestured with her hand. "Where's the entourage? Where's the cavalcade? The police escorts?"
A contemplative look formed on Cheng Cheng's face. "Hey... You're right. Director Sun arrived rather quietly, didn't he? Like, if we didn't go to the conference room today, we wouldn't even know that he's been here."
Feng Na frowned. Something strange was going on here. "Is this Zhou Qin's doing? Maybe Governor Zhou and Director Sun are golfing buddies and he requested the director general to be discreet?"
"Why not just call her and ask?" Cheng Cheng said. "You have her number, right?"
Feng Na pulled out her phone and dialed. A while later, Feng Na lowered her phone and glanced at Cheng Cheng. "Voicemail."
"Try her house?"
Feng Na nodded. Seconds later, the call got through. "Zhou residence."
"Hi. May I speak with Zhou Qin please?"
"May I know who's calling?"
"Um... I'm her senior at Tiannan University. Feng Na."
"Alright, miss. Please hold on. Your call will be redirected shortly."
Some kind of music played. The music ended with a click, and Zhou Qin's voice drifted in. "Hello?"
Feng Na suddenly felt nervous. "Um... Hi. It's me, Feng Na."
"Hello, senior. How can I help you?"
"I just want to say thank you," Feng Na said. "You know, for your help in waiving Li Yundong's expulsion."
There was a brief moment of silence. "I'm sorry, what did you say? Li Yundong, he..."
Feng Na's eyes shot to Cheng Cheng, who was staring back at her expectantly. "Hey, Zhou Qin... Are you okay?" Feng Na asked.
Zhou Qin cleared her throat. "I- I'm fine. Thank you for telling me, Senior Feng Na. Look, I'm sorry, but I'm gonna have to call you back."
Feng Na frowned and glanced at Cheng Cheng again. "Okay..."
The call ended with a click. Feng Na lowered the phone and stared at it.
Cheng Cheng inched closer to her. "So? What did she say?"
"It wasn't her, Cheng Cheng. She didn't do it."
"What? But... Then who was it?
The strangest shit just happened, Li Yundong thought as he stared at the ATM's screen. Well, it wasn't all bad, he supposed. The numbers on the ATM's display could be interpreted as either good or bad news, depending on how he looked at it. The good news: his bank overdraft had decreased in amount, which meant that his parents had yet to stop sending him money. The bad news: every single cent that his parent sent had gone into repaying his bank debts, which meant he couldn't make a withdrawal.
Li Yundong sighed and pressed the "cancel transaction" key. The ATM machine said its goodbye before spitting out his ATM card. He took the card and leaned against the ATM booth. F*ck... He had yet to convince Su Chan to let him go to work, so he had called President Yin earlier and told her about some family emergency. President Yin probably thought the excuse was bullshit but was just too polite to say it. Instead, she told him it was okay, that it would give President Cao a few days to recuperate at home. Li Yundong didn't know what to make of it. Was this a veiled way of saying "you're fired," or was this an actual suggestion.
Li Yundong trudged back to the motel with a heavy heart. When he entered their room, Su Chan was shouting into her phone. "Oh, hey! He's back! Why don't you tell him yourself!"
Li Yundong frowned and walked over. Zhou Qin? Li Yundong mouthed the words to Su Chan, then took the phone from her hand. Su Chan shook her head.
Li Yundong lifted the phone to his ear. "Hello?"
"Finally, I've managed to get a hold of you, O Hero of Tiannan University!"
Li Yundong chuckled sadly. "You mean the ex-Hero of Tiannan University." Oh, how about the Penniless Hero? Or the Heroic Beggar?" Li Yundong stretched his arms above his head.
"How did you even get this number, Feng Na," he said lazily. "Ah. Of course. Zhou Qin must've given it to you."
"Who cares how I got your number! You have to come to the university. Your expulsion has just been waived!"
Li Yundong nearly dropped the phone. What in the ever loving f—
"What?!" Li Yundong half-shouted into the phone. Seconds later, he started laughing. "Nah. You're just shitting me... This is a prank. It wouldn't be the first time."
Feng Na huffed out in exasperation. "This isn't a prank, Li Yundong. I swear to God, okay? I overheard the chancellor talking in the conference room. Your expulsion is waived, Li Yundong. The chancellor even sang your praises in front of the Director General of Education, for God's sake! He called you a good student."
"The Director Gene—" Li Yundong's mind went blank for a moment. "You're shitting me… Why would the Director General of Education be here…?"
What in the world? Was it Zhou Qin again? It had to be Zhou Qin. Ugh. How many favors do I have to owe her... He suppressed a sigh. "Wait. Did you say the chancellor? He's back?"
Feng Na groaned in frustration. "Look. That's not important. Just come to the university. Now."
"Fine. I'll be there in half an hour." Li Yundong hung up the phone, then stared at the device for a moment.
Su Chan shuffled over to him tentatively. "What is it, Yundong?"
Li Yundong ruffled her hair. "Well, princess. Looks like I'm not expelled after all."
"The call is here, Elder Sister."
Zi Yuan reached across the center console and took the phone from Hongling.
"It's done, Zhenren Zi."
"Quietly, I hope?" Zi Yuan asked.
Zi Yuan smirked. "Thank you, Director Sun. The Zhengyi School owes you a favor."
The middle-aged man laughed. "No. Thank you, Zhenren Zi." There was a pause. "Is there anything else I can assist you with?"
"No. That will be all. Thank you, director general."
Zi Yuan handed the phone back to Hongling, who was practically beaming when she took the phone. "Oh, you're so clever, Elder Sister Zi Yuan! This really is the most inconspicuous way to draw him out! Why didn't I think of this before?"
Zi Yuan gave Hongling a sidelong glance. Because you're young, immature, impulsive, and reckless. Zi Yuan held her tongue; she wasn't in the mood to deal with Hongling's sulking and temper tantrums.
From the corner of her eyes, Zi Yuan saw Hongling shift in her seat, leaning forward and placing her arms on the car's dashboard. Together, they watched the front gates of Tiannan University through the car's windshield.
A while later, Hongling seemed to have reached the limit of her patience. "Elder Sister Zi Yuan... We're going to confront him the moment he shows up, right?"
Zi Yuan sighed inwardly. When will you ever grow up, Hongling... She shook her head. "Hongling... Good Cultivators shouldn't rely solely on their powers and the influence of their school… Good Cultivators think before they act."
"Yeah, yeah... So are we going to confront him or not?"
Zi Yuan shook her head. "No. We will observe him first before we make a move."
"Observe? What's there to see, Elder Sister Zi Yuan? That demon witch and that vile man should be destroyed at once! Together, I bet we could beat them up and turn them into nothing but ashes—"
Hongling jerked away from the dashboard and stared at her fearfully. Zi Yuan didn't usually raise her voice at Hongling, but this child had gone too far with her impulsiveness, not to mention her penchant for violence. "Keep acting like this and you mark my words, I'll confine you in Mount Longhu for a year!"
"Have I made myself clear!"
"Y- Yes... Elder Sister..."
"Good. So tell me our next course of action," Zi Yuan said sternly.
"We keep our distance and o- observe..."
Zi Yuan turned away from Hongling and stared out the windshield. Yes, they would observe. At long last, the Jindan's Heir had appeared. Now it was time to see what he was truly capable of.